De-escalating student behaviour in older children

De-escalation is the key to confrontational students. Teaching is a relatively safe profession. But for upper grades, there is always the risk. The students are bigger and have different wants and needs, and let us not forget the huge part that hormones play in the behaviour of children in this aged group. Teachers should be prepared to deal with a student who is raising the stakes in the classroom.

Dealing with disruptive students should actually start before the disruption.

A teacher needs to be well organized and efficient in running a classroom. Above all, have your classroom discipline and classroom management down. You also need to create a positive classroom. If these three are in pace, the chances of you having a confrontation with a student are greatly reduced.

One of the best things you can do with a confrontational student is nothing. At least for a few seconds. Give the student a chance to back away. Students often are seeking attention and by ignoring the outburst, you are not falling in to the trap of giving them what you want. A wise mentor of mine told me that if you don't want a situation to grow...then don't feed it. Don't participate initially, step back and give the student the opportunity to calm down.

  • Most not get angry.
  • Do not lose your cool.
  • You have a classroom of other students who are watching you, and are also relying on you to maintain order and peace. If you get angry, you will be seen as someone who is not in charge anymore. You don't want that. You need to maintain professionalism.
  • Do not get lowered to the student's level.

Other students in your classroom may feel emboldened to get in on the action. They may want to be on either side. They see the teacher as someone who may need protecting. Do not allow other students to get involved as this will only escalate the situation. Fairness is high on children's lists of what makes a 'good teacher'

Your goal as a teacher with a confrontational student is to lower the tension in the room. Most of the time a few stern, calm words can lessen the tension for at least the last minutes of class. That's your goal. To make it to the end, then contact the principal about what happened. Follow through and making written notes in the form of an incident report is vital.


Helping disorganised students to become more organised


If the opportunity arises, you may wish to talk to the student alone, after class. Not alone in the classroom, but in full view of others. Talk like two adults, afford them this treatment as it can actually work very well. Look for those moments when you may be able to talk informally with the student and chat with them about their interests. This may be in the playground, or in passing eg. How did your soccer game go on the weekend? What did you get up to on the weekend? anything that may help to build relationships with them. Make it an ongoing effort.

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